30th Sep 2023

German backing for US anti-missile shield

  • Russia has been angered by the US' missile defence plans (Photo: SHAPE)

Europe as whole could profit from US plans to place anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech republic, while in the long run the EU is heading towards a common army, Germany's defence minister has said.

Warsaw and Prague on Thursday (12 April) received political backing from the German EU presidency for their controversial plans to host a US defence system aimed at intercepting possible ballistic missiles fired from states such as Iran.

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Germany's defence minister Franz Josef Jung told members of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee that the scheme could play an important "protecting role" for Europe as a whole, according to press reports.

"The threats have changed. We are facing threats related to international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and crisis and conflict situations. We have to react to that," he said expressing support for the defence system.

Washington's missile defence scheme had earlier come under fire from states like Luxembourg and Austria, who said the anti-missile bases in Central Europe could provoke new tensions with Russia.

Moscow sees the US scheme as designed to undermine the deterrence threat posed by its own nuclear missiles.

Mr Jung however said he is "confident" that an agreement over the issue could be reached with the Kremlin, despite a bellicose Russian air force chief last month saying that Moscow was ready to destroy the installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The German politician pleaded for a broad political discussion over the scheme at NATO level, adding that Moscow should be consulted in the framework of the NATO-Russia council.

Warsaw and Prague have come under criticism for dealing with Washington directly over the scheme, instead of through NATO structures.

Mr Jung said however that the missile shield should benefit Europe as a whole. "At the moment, North and Central Europe are protected [by the shield], not southern Europe. In my view that is a mistake."

The statements by Mr Jung - a conservative - contrast with sentiments among Germany's social democrats (SPD) who are the junior partner in the ruling grand coalition government.

German foreign minister and SPD member Frank-Walter Steinmeier said earlier "Because the sites for the stationing are getting nearer to Russia, one should have talked about it with Russia beforehand."

Meanwhile the German defence minister also told MEPs that "in the long run we will strive for a European army which shall also support the European security and defence policy," in remarks echoing earlier comments by German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ms Merkel last month told newspaper Bild that "we need to get closer to a common army for Europe," a view also held by Polish president Lech Kaczynski.


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